The air quality in the Capital post-Diwali, according to SAFAR forecast, will continue to be in the “very poor” category even if only half the crackers from last year are burnt. However, if as many crackers as last year to go off, the air quality would be “severe” or to a level that could trigger the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) to take stricter pollution-control measures.
Delhi’s air quality is likely to worsen mainly due to meteorological conditions that will trap pollutants from local sources such as firecrackers.
“The moisture levels are expected to be high and this could trap pollutants. However, it concerns the weather and we must keep our fingers crossed,” said EPCA member Sunita Narain
This time, the atmospheric conditions are such that the post-Diwali air quality is entirely tied to the level of firecrackers the city witnesses on the night of the festivities, experts said.
With an air quality index (AQI) of 306, the city’s air quality was recorded as “very poor” by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Tuesday and the possibility of it turning “severe” is looming large.
In Rajasthan’s Bhiwadi, which is an industrial hub barely 80 km from Delhi and part of the National Capital Region, the AQI was severe, the worst in the entire country.
“The level of moisture in the air will shoot up on October 20. Speed of local wind movement, which plays a crucial role in dispersing pollutants, will also be low thus resulting in accumulation of pollutants,” CPCB member secretary A. Sudhakar said.
Ms. Narain said the toxicity of the pollutants, including road or construction dust, increase manifold when coated with chemicals which are present in firecrackers.
The 24-hour rolling average of PM 2.5, which are ultrafine pollutants 30 times finer than the width of a human hair, was 137 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3) on Tuesday, violating the safe standard of 60 by over two times.
Winter is a critical time in Delhi as meteorological conditions trap air pollutants near the earth’s surface.
The volume of pollutants also rises alarmingly due to the burning of paddy stubble in Haryana and Punjab and bursting of firecrackers during the festive season.
Last year, the air quality of Delhi had plunged and a dense blanket of smog had kept the city shrouded for over a week in November, soon after the Diwali festivities, prompting the authorities to announce closure of schools among other emergency measures.